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Relatively arbitrary or arbitrarily relative?

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Alfonso Soriano claimed his long-awaited 40/40 last night, and I'm quite happy for him. If uniqueness is a hallmark of greatness, then Soriano's season has been great. Only three other players, after all, had hit forty homers and stolen forty bases in the same season. The fact that the feat is so rare makes it so noteworthy. As District of Baseball, points out, even the BBC made mention of Soriano's feat. Now that's noteworthy.

Personally, I'm not sure what to think of it. As I said, I'm happy for Soriano. But I wonder precisely why. I mean, his membership in the 40/40 Club validates a great season that needs no validation. It cements a great player-for-player trade, the greatness of which needs no further cement. It's two numbers placed side-by-side. It's certainly an impressive combination, but precisely what does the combination say about his season?

I suppose I'm pondering the point of arbitrariness. Let's say that Soriano ends up with these forty steals. What distinguishes those forty from a mere thirty-nine? The fact---ah, the characterization, the perception---that forty is a nice and clean number?

(I suppose this discussion could be applied to age too, at your discretion.)

The fascinating aspect of these admittedly banal ramblings is that the quest for the fortieth swipe actually made Soriano a less valuable player to the Nats, at least to some degree. Did you know that Soriano went from Steal Thirty until Steal Thirty-Nine without being caught stealing? It's true. Soriano was caught stealing on August 18 (innings after stealing his thirtieth base), and he wasn't caught again until September 11. And then he was caught for three straight nights. Now, none of this matters much, because the Nats were going nowhere in particular---except to see if Soriano could join the 40/40 Club, or if Ryan Zimmerman could drive toward Rookie of the Year. Furthermore, it's not like Soriano recently received the green light to run wily-nily. Instead, Frank Robinson has pretty much let Soriano drive to the forty steals at his discretion; that is the whole point, after all. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to note that Soriano started getting caught precisely as he was on the precipice of Steal Forty---right as he was ready to gain admittance to such a lofty club.

It's a club that Soriano hardly needed to join. Aside from the rarity of the combination he's accomplished, is he really needy of additional reminders of how excellent he's been? He's received all the praise he will receive starring for a poor team without ready television access on pace to draw 2.2 million fans, or whatever it is. He's months away from being rich, rich, rich.

Yet, people do value nice and clean numbers, like forty steals. They do take notice of rare feats, like the 40/40 Club. Thus, I'm glad for Soriano; he deserves the additional praise. But, in my book, he didn't need the accomplishment. Not attaining it wouldn't have depreciated the value of his season in my eyes, and the fact that he has attained it hasn't really changed my impression of his season.

* * * *

A Federally-approved moment of appreciation for Nats Blog, which signed off for good on Friday. Nats Blog had not been as active this season, which is a pity---a pity, I should clarify, in an entirely selfish sense, lest anyone forget we're all hobbyists here, with (I swear it to be true!) real lives, responsibilities, and schedules. Sometimes, it's just impossible to press forward, and that's apparently the way it was for dexys_midnight and SuperNoVa and, eventually, DM. It will be that way for all of us, the Nats bloggers (common usage, no proper), including me. But, as Marty Blank once said, nobody says when. It just happens.

Anyway, I liked Nats Blog quite a bit. Its ERV project was an constructive as it was ambitious. Its prose was sophisticated and thought-provoking---high-minded in the best way. These things are unavoidable in the so-called blogophere; blogs come and go. But Nats Blog will be missed.

Shoot however many guns are appropriate in such a situation.